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Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Ghana gained political independence from Great Britain in 1957 but it was the Education Act of 1961 that can be pointed to as the legislative instrument that defined the organization and administration of the country's education. This legislation pertained to pre-university education, and separate legislative acts were passed to define and regulate the functions and administration of the nation's universities. Education was defined as the primary responsibility of the national government. The policy of centralization was consistent with the July 1960 Constitution that declared Ghana a republic. Under the new constitution, the ruling Convention Peoples' Party (CPP) was also designated as the only legal national political party. Consequently, the 1961 Education Act assigned to the Ministry of Education (headquartered in Accra) sole responsibility for pre-university education. It exercised power to make policies regarding planning and curriculum research and development, as well as school inspections. The positions addressed in the Education Act of 1961 have been reaffirmed by the various national constitutions enacted since then. In 2001, the Ministry of Education was assisted by its implementation agency, the Ghana Education Service (GES), which was in charge of pre-university education. Matters of higher education were under the supervision of the National Council on Tertiary Education (NCTC). The Education Ministry listed representative bodies of teachers and students, the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), and the National Union of Ghanaian Students (NUGS) as "Partners in Education."

The Education Act of 1961 was preceded by the 1951 Legislative Assembly approval of the Accelerated Development Plan for Education. Arguing that the demands on the soon-to-be independent nation required an educated population, the Accelerated Plan aimed at the rapid expansion of the pre-university educational system from 1951 through 1957. The Legislative Assembly declared basic education to be free and compulsory for school-aged children, and the Education Ministry was also empowered to monitor private institutions to ensure educational quality. In fact, by designating the private schools as "government approved" the government qualified these institutions for assisted funding.

The effort to expand basic education was also applied to secondary education. The state absorbed the previously "unassisted" secondary schools and 66 new secondary schools were added to the system by 1966. Ministry of Education figures showed a tremendous increase in enrollment: the total number of students in secondary schools rose from under 4,000 in 1951 to almost 48,000 in 1966. The number continued to rise to 82,821 in 1971 and to 734,811 in 1985. Following the mid-1980's education reforms that combined some years spent at middle school as part of secondary education, the number of students listed at the secondary level of education rose sharply to 864,300 by 1992.

The rapid expansion of education in the country brought its own problems. The obvious one was the need for the provision of adequately trained teachers. For example, figures from the Annual Report of the Education Department for the Year 1952 illustrate that over 180,000 new students enrolled in the nation's public primary schools that year alone. The rise continued, and by 1957 there were over 456,000 pupils receiving primary education in public schools. For this same period, there were fewer than 4000 teachers in training. The temporary solution to the teacher shortage was the recruitment of many untrained instructors as "pupil teachers"—their only qualification to teach was their successful completion of elementary school. The government, through the establishment of many teacher training colleges, aggressively tackled the problem of staffing the schools with qualified teachers. The process continued at full speed, and in 1971 alone, 16,000 students were recorded as in training to become teachers. During the same time, however, there were 1,419,838 students enrolled in the primary and middle schools. The rise in the number of students at that level of education remained high, and by 1996, there were more than 2.3 million students enrolled in primary schools alone. At the secondary level, the need for teachers was first addressed through the recruitment of overseas experts and Peace Corp volunteers. But while some Peace Corp teachers continue to volunteer (especially to teach mathematics and science), trained Ghanaians instructors are available as of 2001.

The establishment of the University of Ghana at Legon (1948), the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumase (1952), and the University of Cape Coast (1961) were further indications of the new nation's commitment to meet its developmental needs. Yet, these three institutions could not admit all qualified applicants. In fact, as late as 1992, these universities and two new ones (the University of Developmental Studies at Tamale and the University College of Winneba) had a total enrollment of just above 10,000 students. In other words, as of 2001, there was still a great need for more tertiary institutions, and discussions by the major religious denominations to establish their own universities was consistent with the demand for such programs. Also, with the general increase in the nation's population, there is expected to be a need for more primary and secondary schools, as well as for more trained teachers.

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Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceGhana - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education